Von Eichendorff: In a foreign country

Staccoto_Lightning

In a Foreign Place

From my homeland beyond the red lightning
the clouds are coming here,
but my father and mother are long dead,
no one there knows me now.

How soon, how soon the silent time will come
when I too will be at rest, and the silent
forest loneliness will rustle over me
and no one will know me here either.

      –Joseph von Eichendorff (1788-1857)

In der Fremde

Aus der Heimat hinter der Blitzen rot
da kommen die Wolken her,
aber Vater und Mutter sind lange tot, es kennt mich dort keiner mehr.

Wie bald, wie bald kommt die stille Zeit,
da ruhe ich auch, und über mir
rauschet de stille Waldeinsamkeit
und keiner mehr kennt mich auch hier.


Message from a dead father to his child

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Before long I will leave this earth. I am trying to stay calm, to talk with you for the first and last time on this paper. I fear you can’t imagine what it’s like, alas. To face this moment and be unable to see you once, to hug you once, to kiss you once ... I am heartbroken. My regret is unending. 

  –Huang Wen-kung 黃溫恭, a political prisoner condemned to execution in 1950s Taiwan, writing to his unborn child.


Jim Moore: I remember my mother toward the end

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I remember my mother toward the end,
folding the tablecloth after dinner
so carefully,
as if it were the flag
of a country that no longer existed,
but once had ruled the world.

   --Jim Moore (1943- ), from "Love in the Ruins" in his book Invisible Strings (2011, Graywolf Press). Moore's poetry is currently being featured in the New York City subway.


From One Second to the Next: A shooting star

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I would like to think that my Dad is somewhere in the universe. I go outside at night and sit on my balcony when I'm really upset. I stare at the sky, and whenever I'm super upset, I always see... a shooting star. And I like to think that that's my way... my Dad's way... of trying to communicate with me. I felt that my Dad would not have wanted me to be mad at him for the rest of my life... my Dad would have forgiven him. I knew that, and he would want me to try and move on, and forgive him, and even... get to know him.

  --Megan O'Dell, remembering her father, a scientist, who was killed together with a colleague by a young man who was texting as he drove. She later befriended the devastated man, and they both appear in "From One Second to the Next," a public service documentary about deaths caused by drivers who were texting, made by famous film director Werner Herzog. You can see the movie online.


Alasdair MacLean: "I like to picture them meeting again"

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Sanna today

[The poet Alasdair Maclean's parents were the last crofters in Sanna, a seacoast hamlet in the west highlands. It is one of the most beautiful places on earth, but it was a hard place to make a living from farming. After many hardships, their life got a bit easier in 1970 when they began to receive an old-age pension from the British government. They died a few months apart, in March and August, 1973.]

"Don't grieve for me," Father had said when he was carried from the house on a stretcher, after his first coronary and before his last one. "I'll be with your mother."

My younger brother had been greatly struck by this anecdote almost in spite of himself. "Do you think there's an after-life?" he asked me now.

I gave the question the serious consideration it deserved. "Who knows?" I said eventually.

"I don't believe it," my brother continued. "Never have done. It's a fairy-story. Yet I like to picture them meeting again. Up there, you know. They've earned that if anybody ever earned it. I like to think of flower-strewn meadows, all that stuff. Father a young man once more, running across the grass. Mother waiting for him. What do you think they would say? How would they greet one another?"

I thought of Mother, her exclamation "My!" when anything impressed her and how much had impressed her despite her unimpressive surroundings. I could not at first get words past the sob in my throat. "O that's easy," I replied when at last I could contort my voice into something resembling normality. "He wouldn't say anything at all. She'd just say, "My! Ian! You weren't long!"

  --Alasdair Maclean (1926-1994) in his reminiscence of his parents and the life of a crofter in Sanna, Night Falls on Ardnamurchan (1984). Sanna is now a tourist destination.


Terms of Endearment: a dying mother tells her teen son not to feel guilty later

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Emma Greenway Horton: I know you like me. I know it. For the last year or two, you've been pretending like you hate me. I love you very much. I love you as much as I love anybody, as much as I love myself. And in a few years when I haven't been around to be on your tail about something or irritating you, you could... remember that time that I bought you the baseball glove when you thought we were too broke. You know? Or when I read you those stories? Or when I let you goof off instead of mowing the lawn? Lots of things like that. And you're gonna realize that you love me. And maybe you're gonna feel badly, because you never told me. But don't - I know that you love me. So don't ever do that to yourself, all right?

--In the movie Terms of Endearment (1983), which was written by James Brooks based on a novel by Larry McMurtry. 

Emma is dying, and hasn't been getting along with her older son, a resentful teenager. She tells him not to feel guilty later for how he is behaving now. She knows he loves her anyway. 


Colette: You victoriously resist tears... and then....

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How strange it is, you can resist tears victoriously, you can carry yourself very well at the most difficult moments. And then... you find a flower in bloom that was still closed the day before, -- a letter falls from a drawer, -- and everything falls apart.

  --French writer Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette (1873-1954) in a letter sent to her friend Marguerite Moreno, who had just lost her husband. Colette was referring to her own mother's letter. Incident described in Colette et Sido: le dialogue par l'écriture (2009), by Graciela Conte-Stirling.

Que c'est curieux, on résiste victorieusement aux larmes, on se "tient" très bien aux minutes les plus dures. Et puis... on découvre, fleurie, une fleur encore fermée la veille, -- une lettre tombe d'un tiroir, -- et tout tombe.


Tracy K. Smith: Why do we insist he has vanished?

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...So why do we insist
he has vanished, that death ran off with our
everything worth having? Why not that he was
swimming only through this life-- his slow,
graceful crawl, shoulders rippling,

legs slicing away at the waves, gliding
further into what life itself denies?
He is only gone as far as we can tell. Though
when I try, I see the white cloud of his hair
in the distance like an eternity.

        --Tracy K. Smith (1972- ), "It's Not" (for Jean) in Life on Mars (2011)


Lincoln: You are sure to be happy again

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Executive Mansion,
Washington, December 23, 1862.

Dear Fanny,

It is with deep grief that I learn of the death of your kind and brave Father; and, especially, that it is affecting your young heart beyond what is common in such cases. In this sad world of ours, sorrow comes to all; and, to the young, it comes with bitterest agony, because it takes them unawares. The older have learned to ever expect it. I am anxious to afford some alleviation of your present distress. Perfect relief is not possible, except with time. You can not now realize that you will ever feel better. Is not this so? And yet it is a mistake. You are sure to be happy again. To know this, which is certainly true, will make you some less miserable now. I have had experience enough to know what I say; and you need only to believe it, to feel better at once. The memory of your dear Father, instead of an agony, will yet be a sad sweet feeling in your heart, of a purer and holier sort than you have known before.

Please present my kind regards to your afflicted mother.

Your sincere friend
A. Lincoln

According to website Abraham Lincoln Online, "President Abraham Lincoln wrote this touching letter of condolence to the daughter of his long-time friend, William McCullough." Lieutenant Colonel McCullough of the Fourth Illinois Cavalry was killed in Coffeeville, Mississippi on December 5th, 1862.